The 30 Best-Selling Novels of All Time

Meet the most monied English curriculum in history.

The 30 Best-Selling Novels of All Time
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We get it: When you hear the words “mega-selling blockbuster,” you probably think of some handsome guy named Chris flexing his muscles across the big-screen. But as much as we all love a good film, that term can also apply to good old-fashioned books, as well. Herein, we’ve rounded up the 30 best-selling novels of all time, according to various expert counters at The Guardian and The New York Times. You’ve likely heard of them all—and maybe even read a few. You probably didn’t know that tens of millions—and in some case, hundreds of millions—of people have done the same. So read on, and see how many of these you have in your library. And for more books to add to your reading list, check out The 5 Books Bill Gates Says You Should Read This Summer.

Don Quixote Best-Selling Novels

1
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Year released: 1612
Copies sold: 500 million

The most prolific and popular novel of all time, Don Quixote, is a testament to how great storytelling has no expiration date. The story follows a Hidalgo, Alonso Quixano, who proves that chivalry will in fact never die. And for more classic reading content, check out these 40 Books Every Women Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf.

A Tale of Two Cities Best-Selling Novels

2
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Year released: 1859
Copies sold: 200 million

Chances are, you read A Tale of Two Cities (or at least pretended to) in a high school class. It’s no surprise that this novel has sold so many copies—it’s practically mandatory on curriculum.

Lord of the Rings Best-Selling Novels

3
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Year released: 1954
Copies sold: 150 million

The best-selling fantasy novel and series, The Lord of the Rings, has only grown in popularity since it was released, spawning a veritable armada of films, theatre, music, artwork, video games, and even board games.

The Little Prince Best-Selling Novels

4
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exuper

Year released: 1943
Copies sold: 140 million

The Little Prince, a book about the perils of growing old, by French aristocrat Antoine de Saint-Exuper, has been translated into more than 300 languages and dialects. And for more classic literature you cannot miss, check out these 20 Poems Every Man Over 30 Should Know By Heart.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Best-Selling Novels

5
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Year released: 1997
Copies sold: 120 million

J.K. Rowling is undoubtedly one of the most prolific authors of our time, weaving tales of bravery and sorcery with this series about a school of magic. The films based on this series have grossed more than $7.7 billion in total. In this first installment, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone—otherwise known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone—Harry realizes his life is far from ordinary. And for more children’s content that’s also adult-friendly, check out these 20 Funniest Jokes From Kids’ Books.

And Then There Were None Best-Selling Novels

6
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Year released: 1939
Copies sold: 100 million

Agatha Christie reinvented the mystery genre with 66 novels and 14 short story collections, including And Then There Were None—most of which were ultimately adapted for the screen. In fact, more than thirty feature films have been created based on her work.

The Hobbit Best-Selling Novels

7
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Year released: 1937
Copies sold: 100 million

This relatively brief novel set the stage for Tolkien’s later work, The Lord of the Rings. In The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, we meet follow the novel’s protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, and accompany him on a treasure hunt gone wrong.

Dream of the Red Chamber Best-Selling Books

8
Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

Year released: 1754
Copies sold: 100 million

Also called The Story of the Stone, Dream of the Red Chamber is one of China’s so-called Four Great Classical Novels. The story centers on two branches of a wealthy family and their ultimate downfall, intended to mirror the decline of the Qing dynasty.

Alices's Adventures in Wonderland Best-Selling Novels

9
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Year released: 1865
Copies sold: 100 million

Largely regarded as one of the best children’s novels in the history of literature, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, is one of the best examples of the “literary nonsense” genre.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Best-Selling Novels

10
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Year released: 1950
Copies sold: 85 million

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is the first published and best known in the series of seven novels in the Chronicles of Narnia. The series follows four siblings as they explore a magical new world exposed to them through an old wardrobe.

She: A History of Adventure Best-Selling Books

11
She: A History of Adventure by H. Rider Haggard

Year released: 1887
Copies sold: 83 million

The nature of women is explored in this popular novel, She: A History of Adventure, by English writer H. Rider Haggard. Current scholars argue that the book clearly identifies a time when men began to feel women pushing back against societal norms and into a new kind of freedom, that, as illustrated clearly in this novel, absolutely terrified men.

The Adventures of Pinocchio Best-Selling Novels

12
The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

Year released: 1881
Copies sold: 80 million

Every liar (and truth-teller!) is familiar with this tale. The Adventures of Pinocchio inspired the famous animated version by Walt Disney and cemented a colloquial association between long noses and liars.

Vardi Wala Gunda Best-Selling Novels

13
Vardi Wala Gunda by Ved Prakash Sharma

Year released: 1992
Copies sold: 80 million

Ved Prakash Sharma’s detective novels are incredibly popular in India, especially Vardi Wala Gunda, where his impact has been felt the most. In addition to a whopping 176 novels, Sharma also wrote screenplays of his most famous works, like Anaam for Bollywood, and founded Tulsi Comics.

The Da Vinci Code Best-Selling Novels

14
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Year released: 2003
Copies sold: 80 million

While there are fewer greater spectacles than Tom Hanks running around finding clues in dark and dingy tombs in the 2006 thriller, The Da Vinci Code, like many other things, it’s best to read the book before you watch the movie.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Best-Selling Novels

15
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Year released: 1998
Copies sold: 77 million

In the second installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry, Ron, and Hermoine work to figure out who has been writing threatening messages on the walls—and who opened the dastardly Chamber of Secrets. Enemies of the heir, beware.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Best-Selling Novels

16
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Year released: 1999
Copies sold: 65 million

During the third part of this best-selling series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is reunited with a dark figure from his past, while Dementors threaten the well-being of students at Hogwarts.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Best-Selling Novels

17
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Year released: 2000
Copies sold: 65 million

In the fourth installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry is mysteriously forced to participate in the Triwizard Tournament. During the competition, Harry begins to see sinister signs of Lord Voldermort’s tricky intervention.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Best-Selling Novels

18
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Year released: 2003
Copies sold: 65 million

Harry finally develops a crush, Cho Chang, in the fifth part of the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and things seem to be going great—despite the fact that no one believes him when he talks about the fact that Lord Voldemort is indeed coming back. So, to prepare for this homecoming, Harry and his friends form their own group, practicing self-defense magic.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Best-Selling Novels

19
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Year released: 2005
Copies sold: 65 million

In the sixth installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry picks up a potions book that transforms him from a below average potions student to a truly remarkable one. Though, this greatness doesn’t last for long when Harry realizes who the previous owner of his book, the Half-Blood Prince, really was.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Best-Selling Novels

20
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Year released: 2007
Copies sold: 65 million

The seventh and final novel of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, witnesses all of the characters undergoing a metamorphosis—and details the final confrontation between Harry and Lord Voldemort.

The Alchemist Best-Selling Novels

21
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Year released: 1988
Copies sold: 65 million

The Alchemist, by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, follows the journey of a young shepherd boy, Santiago, as he sets out to find the treasure that he dreamed about. Along the way, he encounters many characters who help him find his way.

The Catcher in the Rye Best-Selling Novels

22
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Year released: 1951
Copies sold: 65 million

This masterpiece about teen angst and alienation was originally intended for an adult audience, though it’s now widely read by adolescent students—and cited as “spiritual motivation” by many a Brooklynite. The Catcher in the Rye, about a teen named Holden Caulfield and his struggle to find his voice in an adult world, has been banned in numerous countries.

Think and Grow Rich Best-Selling Novels

23
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Year released: 1937
Copies sold: 60 million

Perhaps the most famous self-help book ever written, Think and Grow Rich gives readers detailed steps about how to achieve their dreams—you know: how to get rich.

The Bridges of Madison County Best-Selling Novels

24
The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

Year released: 1992
Copies sold: 60 million

This best-selling love story, The Bridges of Madison County, takes place on a farm in Madison County, Iowa, during the 1960s. A lonely married woman has a tumultuous four-day affair with a photographer from National Geographic sent to the area to take photographs of the bridges.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Best-Selling Novels

25
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Year released: 1887
Copies sold: 60 million

This twelve-part classic crime series has inspired countless copycats, screen adaptations (both large and small), and admirers. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is told in first person narrative by Dr. Watson, who investigates crimes that are often about greater social injustices in the world.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Best-Selling Novels

26
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Year released: 1870
Copies sold: 60 million

In this classic science-fiction adventure novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the main character, Professor Pierre Aronnax, is on the hunt for a mysterious sea monster in New York. When he finds out that the monster is actually a sophisticated submarine controlled by spiteful Captain Nemo intent on enacting revenge on humankind, things start to get a little dicey. And for more ways to get your sci-fi fix, check out the 20 Long-Predicted Technologies That Are Never Going to Happen.

 

One Hundred Years of Solitude Best-Selling Novels

27
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Year released: 1967
Copies sold: 50 million

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Spanish author Gabriel García Márquez, follows a family living in Colombia, fighting an unjust government and many other obstacles that were heavy on many Colombians’ minds during the publishing of this book in 1955.

Lolita Best-Selling Novels

28
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Year released: 1955
Copies sold: 50 million

If you’re not familiar with Lolita‘s storyline, a professor under the pseudonym Humbert Humbert falls in love with a twelve-year-old girl named Dolores Haze. As the relationship turns into something very nefarious, the professor begins to control and manipulate her out of jealousy and paranoia.

 Heidi Best-Selling Novels

29
Heidi’s Years of Living and Travel by Johanna Spyri

Year released: 1880
Copies sold: 50 million

Heidi’s Years of Living and Travel, a children’s book by Swiss author Johanna Spyri, follows the adventures of Heidi, an orphan who moves from place to place, learning about the world through the eyes of those looking after her.

Anne of Green Gables Best-Selling Novels

30
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Year released: 1908
Copies sold: 50 million

Anne of Green Gables follows a strong female lead character who must overcome challenging obstacles with grit and gusto, which she always does. And for more content to add to your summer reading list, check out these 20 Poets You Haven’t Read But Should.

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